Can't see the Wood for the Trees


In last weeks blog we talked about “promances” and emotional relationships in the workplace either having a positive or negative impact on business.

Recently I was reading a Greg Savage blog where he covered the scenario when the owner and founder of the business stays too long in a role that eventually over time he/she is no longer suitable for. He used the example when the founder insists on remaining in the GM or CEO role when in reality that person is a poor leader. Owners in the wrong job have cost companies millions of dollars in value he believes.

We have experienced examples where people have been promoted to levels beyond their competence. Indeed we see it when a person who is expert in their craft or skill but frankly just doesn't make a great strategic or people leader.

We see examples of this often in self-made businesses or indeed family run businesses where the business founder or a member of the family holds a senior role in the family business simply based on their relative position in the wider family hierarchy. For the good of the business something has to change…but it is a difficult topic to bring up and resolve. For many it is simply because they are too immersed in the operations and day to day bump and grind that they do not have the time to step back and distinguish the wood from the trees.

wood for trees

It takes courage to step aside and relinquish control to others who may be much more experienced or skilled at taking the company forward, or indeed inviting others into the company to provide expertise and insights that may threaten or challenge the perception of control.

Surrounding yourself with expertise or capability is not an admission of failure… indeed it is often the inspired decision that triggers a transformation within a business.

The mark of a good leader is one who has the humility to recognise their individual weaknesses or blind spots and then surround themselves with people that may be savvier than them. It takes a certain person to suddenly realise and accept that their views and assumptions can be challenged and then, even more so, have that courage to adopt the view, as the saying goes ‘None of us are as smart as all of us.’

The best example I have seen was by the founder of Silverstripe in Wellington. A now international web development company who from small beginnings have become quite famous globally… their feats include helping build the Democrats website back in 2007 that helped get Obama elected as US President. One of the founders stepped back from heading the company when he realised he was not the right person to lead the company into the next phase of evolution and moved himself into marketing and development.

 It’s not a failure to step aside… in some cases the failure would be not to.

step aside

by Paul Bell

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